Thursday, June 29, 2006

Green River Update

Since our meeting with Kevin Carter a lot has happened. I don’t know that we have made progress; I’d like to think that we have but, the picture is definitely clearing up. The bottom line is we have two government agencies that really don’t like each other and have done a poor job of communicating back and forth over the years. Getting them both on the same page for now is what needs to happen.

On Monday we met with DWR. They have expressed their interest in this parcel on numerous occasions to SITLA, however they have valued the land based upon its grazing and wildlife potential. Those values equate to roughly $1000.00/acre. Obviously, SITLA isn’t marketing this property based upon these values. Consequently the Divisions offer has or was not acceptable.

The current offer from Flint Timber and Spinnerfall, although we don’t know what that is, is higher than the $1000.00/acre that the Division put on the table. The Division by mandate can only spend 10% above their own appraised value. Again this number falls significantly short of what is on the table.

Due to public pressure and some other issues SITLA would really like to do this deal with DWR. There are a number of factors that play into this, which are all positive. The biggest hold up is DWR’s valuation.

After our meeting on Monday the Division agreed to reevaluate their appraisal based upon the offer that is now before SITLA. It’s frustrating, however since no one but Flint Timber and Spinnerfall know what the present offer is. This is a unique piece of property. Should this hit the open market, who knows how much it could sell for?

Our time table is July 7 for a decision by SITLA on which way to go. They must take the current offer if a competing bid of some sort doesn’t materialize. The Division has an opportunity here, but it is complicated. They also have some partners who are willing to help finance the deal. Unfortunately at this juncture there are a lot of what if’s and maybe’s. Hopefully by next week there will be some clarifications and all these factors will fall into place to our benefit.

Worse case scenarios, if this should go through, are the complexities and complications of developing this property. For one, the Divisions attorneys have determined that the access road to SITLA’s land falls 400’ short of the property line. Even if the road enters their property, you can’t pave it, so how would you get material to the job site. There is the issue of historical artifacts that litter the property. Power is another problem. Most likely this development would have to be run off of generators. These are just some of the major stumbling blocks that may end up putting the kibosh on this project.

Keep the pressure on. Things are moving forward. Not at fast as we would like, but we remain optimistic. If you haven’t written letters, there are e-mail addresses in my previous Blog. I would add Flint Timber and Spinnerfall to your list as well. If either of these parties backs out at this stage of the game, there is not deal.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Road Trip

It’s Saturday afternoon and Matt from the shop has just returned from the Henry’s Fork. He stopped by my home to drop off a set of keys and to fill me in. Unfortunately I was entrenched in a phone conversation that I couldn’t break from, so he barely wet my whistle before I had to get back to my call. By the time Monday rolled around, there wasn’t much time to think more about wetting a line.

Monday 7:30am I get the first of the weekends fishing reports. It’s been a while since I’ve taken time to fish and the calls are getting to me. Plain and simple, the fishing is really good and it's good all over. It’s that time of year when making a decision regarding where to go gets difficult. Time maybe the limiting factor.

Pete, and old shop rat, and a few of his buddies ring me up at 8:30 am. It’s a three cup starter and I’m already into my fourth when he calls. They’ve just returned also from the Henry’s Fork. He started out the conversation something like “man you gotta get up there. Brown Drakes, Caddis, PMD & Flav Spinners all over the waters, it was awesome”. With the long weekend ahead I’ve been eyeing a window of opportunity to travel. Regardless of what I have on my plate, it my just have to wait. Hopefully the recent politics that I’ve been caught in the middle of will be such that I can escape for a brief reprieve. Sounds like the years first “Road Trip” may be in order.

I’d stick around here, but part of my motivation is to escape the little head wave we are having. Arriving back at the shop after a meeting with DWR over the Green River Development the outside temperatures have reached 97. The massive caldera that precolates the prolific waters of the Henry’s Fork will yield far cooler temperatures. I despise heat, andtolerate it only when emersed in water somewhere. So far the plantes seem to be lining up and there's great motivation to get things do to clear my calendar of anything that may impede a few days of camp coffee, drakes, and Grub Stake lunches.

Development Progress

Friday we met with Kevin Carter of SITLA to discuss options that may still be available to those who are seeking alternatives to the use of this 363 acre parcel other than what is currently on the table. Unfortunately there are no easy solutions given the mandate that SITLA must follow.

The good news is tha there are opportunities and there are interested parities with the financial ability to purchase this parcel. However, SITLA, at this late juncture must perceive that there is a viable and competitive market that is capable of entering into a financial arrangement before triggering this process. I don’t think that this is going to be difficult to prove or initiated. But that’s where the process gets complicated.

Regardless of the direction that this project moves, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty. After our meeting it was clear that their mandate for moving forward in a direction that suits the public's interest is not one that is cut and dry. However, thanks to everyone’s letters some doors have been opened and options made available. If we had not gotten involved this would have already been a done deal. As a result SITLA has granted us time and graciously given us opportunities. I respectfully use the term gracious due to the late nature of our intervention. After all we entered into this process at the 11th hour.

The deadline for their decision could come as late/early as July 7th. At his point in time that decision would involve staying the course and leasing the parcel to the Flint Timber and Spinner Fall Guide Service or triggering the purchase process. To my understanding, should they enter into the latter of these two options, decisions won’t be made until December.

Letters are still a good thing to send in. Again if you should write, keep the letters positive. As Kevin said, correspondences that start why “Hey Asshole”, don’t get paid much attention. His office has responded to our requests. Public sentiment has opened the door and we’ve got as good an opportunity to change the course as we are going to get. If you are going to throw expletives around, they should be directed to those currently seeking to develop this land.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cross Your Fingers

It’s 6am and I had a rough night of sleep contemplating what is to unfold today. I’m not good at politics, but have learned over the years it’s a necessary part of the business process regardless of your vocation. I find it very emotional and draining. Although it can be rewarding, I much prefer dealing with the my customers and sticking to what I know best, fishing with a fly.

Today is a critical one regarding the Green River Development issue. At 2:00pm we meet with the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) before sitting down with Kevin Carter of SITLA. TPL is willing to negotiate with SITLA for the controversial parcel that would have been awarded to Flint Timber and Spinnerfall guide service for development. Thanks to anglers and a number of individual efforts this contract has been rescinded hopefully for ever. We will know more after 3pm today.

TPL is a group who intervenes in such critical issues and negotiates to take such lands and habitats off the market. Should they be successful, they will then make arrangements to place these lands into appropriate hands for management. Should this be successful, it is most likely that this parcel will eventually end up in UDWR’s inventory. They already have a section that adjoins this SITLA parcel.

TPL isn’t the only group who is pursuing this property, however all parties currently involved are working together to see that this goes through. At the moment we are in a great position to move forward and settle this. We are fortunate that SITLA is entertaining a sale of the property that would take this parcel out of their inventory and put it in the hands of someone who would manage it for the beneficial use of all with the intention of preserving the experience that we have come to enjoy and respect on Utah’s Green River.

The Nature Conservancy is another group whose involvement has been instrumental in this. I have had a number of conversations with David Livermore and Chris Montague that have helped us negotiate this transaction and bring it to where it is today. Without their intervention in the early stages of this process, I don’t know that we would have gotten the opportunities that we currently have.

There are a lot of people and groups here, Stonefly Society, Denny Breer, Terry Collier to mention a few, who are making this happen. Hats off to all! Wish us luck and at 3:00pm keep your fingers crossed. We’ll know more by the day's end….

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

For now a Reprieve

Monday the fishing community received a gift. Gayle McKeachnie called to inform us that he had received information regarding the Green River Development that we would find interesting. We were all ears.

After receiving confirmation on Friday that SITLA had come to a decision and would announce their deal on Monday, we were optimistic that the angling community’s efforts and voice had been heard. At 2:00 pm our speculation was confirmed. Kevin Carter and his office had decided to hold off on their decision and for the mean time and not lease those sensitive lands within the Green River corridor to Spinner Fall and it’s partners.

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune there was an article stating that SITLA would not make a decision on how best to deal with this controversial parcel for another 3-4 weeks. More good news!

Keep writing those letters. At this juncture should you respond, please express your feelings and concerns in a positive light. Since we have our foot in the door, we don’t want to slap the hand that has extended the “Olive Branch”. E-mails should be sent to the following addresses:,,,

We’ll done everyone. Keep your fingers crossed. I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated at to this issue progress.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Green River Development

Back in the fall, I learned of a proposed Lodge potentially being built on the only piece of land that is not controlled by the Forest Service with the Green River corridor. This property is controlled by SITLA (School Institutional Trust Lands). Their sole purpose is to maximize the profitability of lands they control. They do this with very little regard to the impacts their practices have on wildlife or recreational values. Should this come to fruition, this Lodge will serve only a few of the corridor's privileged clients, yet it’s impact and presence will effect many.

Dagett County Commissioners have supported this project believing that it will help increase their tax base. Given the potential impacts as perceived by the public and users of this incredible resource, I can’t help but believe that what few dollars they receive from this development will be offset by those who are deterred by further development and use within an already congested corridor. This doesn’t take into consideration pressures from the developer to provide services that others enjoy within the county.

The project as presented by Spinner Fall Guide Service and their clients, who represent timber interests, would encompass a main lodge and ten to twelve individual cabins to house the lodge's clients. This is just the preliminary development. As indicated by the Executive Director of SITLA there are opportunities for further development.

The Green is an amazing resource. Without a doubt it is one of the finest and most beautiful trout fisheries in the country. At times, like any fishery of its caliber, it gets crowded. This does not go without notice and publicity. Should this Lodge be built it will only add to the congestion and perception that has lead to a decline in visitors to this river.

More importantly this piece of land, a little less than 400 acres, is critical habitat for wildlife. The Division of Wildlife Resources has tried to sequester a deal with SITLA on this property for years recognizing the potential for development and that potential to disrupt and impact wildlife and fisheries. We know for fact that all and any offers have been denied.

SITLA has options. To date they have been unwavering in their efforts. To see this development go through given the impact it will have on all users and wildlife would set an irreversible precedence. At the moment there are no public or private developments within this pristine 20 mile corridor, a unique and priceless rarity this day and age. Although the developer says their project will have little impact on the area, how could it not, especially during the construction phase of the project?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Selective Harvest

A few days back a customer breeched me on the subject of keeping a fish or two. In the state of Utah with the recent change in regulations on several of our streams back to general fishing regulations, allowing the use of bait, this subjects has been a hot topic. The DWR (Division of Wildlife Resource) is concerned about the fish health on some waters, stating literally that there are too many trout in some of them. Their impression is that flyfishers won't keep fish, so their only option for these fisheries is to change the regulations that would allow more fish to be harvested and for all anging methods to be used. Needless to say there was an our cry from the trout fishing population to leave the regulations as they were.

Now my friend, who likes to keep a fish or two, was concerned about how he would be treated if he kept a couple of browns from the Provo River. He felt that should he be seen leaving the river with a few tasty little Salmo trutta's that he would be crucified by his fellow constituents. Personally, I don't know if that would be the case, but I wouldn't be surprised if a few words would be exchaned upon departure under such circumstances.

After being in this business for twenty five years my position on catch and release, the keeping of fish, and fishing regualtions as a whole have changed considerably. Back in them earlier more nieve days, so to speak, I wanted every fishery that was worthy to be Catch and Release. Having cut my teeth on the banks of Silver Creek and the Henry's Fork and seeing the successes that C & R regulations had on these incredible resources, I wanted the same for all the other waters that I fished. We'll you can see what success my lobbing efforts have had since in the state of Utah we don't have a singgle C & R fishery. In fact to date, we only have a single flyfishing only water and not a single water that has a C & R regulation. At this juncture, I don't know that I want any of that to change. However, that's not to say that I was in favor of the recent regualtions change. That was an absurd and ill conceived change that still does't sit well with me and should be reversed.

Some of our best flyfishing waters in Utah are those that have a general fishing regulation. Not for the sheer number of fish, but for the size of the trout these waters hold. The reason they have such large fish is there isn't much room for competition among these fish since most of these waters don't harbour very dense populations. The keeping of fish has something to do with that. This was one of the arugments that the DWR posed regarding their justification for a regulation change on the Middle Provo (they just left out a number of other significant factors that also contributed to the decline in overall fish health). I believe that the Lower Provo, which has over 3000 trout/river mile could use a little thinning out. Nature has been doing a fair job of this every winter. Those fish with mold of them are evidence of an overpopulated fishery combined with fishing pressure and water levels.

Regualtions create a strange perception about the viability of a fishery. For example, if a fishery has a bait fishing reg attached to it, most flyfishers assume it to be not very good. If you should put a more restrictive regulation on these waters, I'm farily confident that you would see a steady increase in their use. Look what happened to the Green. You would also see the fish counts start to increase along with angler success. But, it's biologicially proven that as numbers increase, size is inversly effected.

Those waters with general fishing regulations don't draw the crowds in part because of thier low trout densities. Most anglers who fish the Provo or Green are use to catching a dozen trout or more in an outting. These waters that I'm referring to that permit the use of all angling methods acceptable by the state, don't support the numbers of trout that our more populars fisheries do. A couple of decent fish can be a farily stantard day with an exceptional day maybe approaching a half dozen. Most flyfishers today are playing a numbers game where a day of only a few doesn't cut the mustard and double diget days are the measuring stick.

What many don't realize is that C & R fishing practices yeilds about a 10% mortality rate. Simple math; for every 10 fish you land one dies. Although when we let trout go, they have a far better options of living than bonking them on the head, like it or not we are still killing a fair number of those fish when we let them go. So letting them all go, as we are fond of saying, does have its impact on trout mortality. Although we aren't harvesting these fish, our net affect is quite similar.

Keeping a fish or two in a number of instances will not have much effect on a fishery and in many instances may improve them. Those Uinta streams where you can catch as many little trout as you want would be enhanced if a few fish were culled out. Of our more popular waters, the Lower Provo, which boast and incredible 3000 +/fish/river mile, may produce some larger more healthy fish if their numbers were thinned out. However, we tend to keep trout like we kill our prized bulls. If you are planning on keeping a fish or two, don't take the prized bulls. Leave those trout to spawn the next generation. Those fish that you may hook a little to deep, or are a little "Snaky", should be the ones we take.

As much as C & R fishing practices have improved our waters it does have its impact and the fact that it does yield a 10% mortality rate in the long run, will benefit some waters, but can have more detrimental impacts on others. Selective harvesting when practiced with some thought can positively benefit those waters where trout populations are extreme. Pick your waters, pick your trout, and more importantly know your facts before you get on someone’s case over the taking of a trout for the frying pan every once in a while. And if you are really concerned about the health of the waters you fish, limit the number of fish you catch each day. I have since I've owned the shop. My magic number is the old general fishing regulations limit 8, which I rarely get to. We will save that subject for another Blog down the road.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Strike Indicators and Flyfishing

The Strike Indicator these days has taken on new meaning. They do serve their purpose, but as I've watched their development over the years I wonder if we are taking this helpful fly fishing as an easy way out to introducing flyfishing and catching fish.

The other day I was out and watched this guy working a run with this rather large cylindrical object attached to his line. From where I stood, at first, it looked like one of those little red bobbers that I use to use when I was a kid. Later I'll come to find out that what this gentleman was using was a simple party balloon, blown up and secured to the butt sections of his fly line. It was obviously effective, watching him hook a fish or two, but in such instances when strike indicators are so obtrusive, why bother to use a fly rod?

As explained to me back in my younger days, since I'm not a spring chicken anymore, the difference between fly fishing and conventional fishing, when it comes to fly casting, is the weight of the line. When fly fishing, it's the mass off the fly line when combined with the action of a fly rod that propels the fly/lure through the air. In conventional fishing, it's the lure or weight when attached to the line that propels the line through the air. To me, this seems about right, and as I've gone about my fly fishing endeavors have tried to adhere to these basic principles.

In my book casting is what separates fly fishing from all other types of fishing. Although I have fished with a fly rod since I was 9, it wasn't until my 20's that I saw someone do it really well. His name was Jerry Siem and it was in the parking lot of The North Fork Anglers on the banks of the Henry's Fork. That name sound familiar. I was in the Will Godfrey's now defunct shop tying flies in between gusts of the Ranch's infamous wind, when my fishing partner somehow arranged a bet over a little casting competition. At the time we didn't know who Jerry was. Jerry bet my partner that he could cast further with just his hand than my buddy could cast with his fancy graphite fly rod. We all ignorantly thought- piece of cake.

So out into the parking lot we went. Jerry being the gamester puts the pressure on my fishing partner and has him go first. He winds up and several false casts later lays down a respectable 50-60' cast. Jerry sets up, pulls most of the fly line off his reel, and with just a few false casts lets his cast go. Now his cast was about the same in distance before he let it go, but before it landed almost the entire fly line had slipped through his fingers. Money was exchanged, before like a scolded puppy my friend heads back into the shop.

It was only later that we found out who this guy was. Jerry is now head rod designer for Sage Rod Company and one of the smoothest and most accomplished casters you will ever meet. Having spent a lot of time on the Henry's Fork, I got to meet and learn from some our generations great flyfishers and casters: Jerry Siem, Jim Vincent, Reid Bonson, Terry Ring, Mike Lawson, and Rene' Harrop to name a few. These guys were superb fisherman and their casting skills had a great deal to do with their success.

So where am I going with all this. I think that fly casting among most flyfisher is becoming a lost art and that the strike indicator has had a lot to do with this fact. All of us, in the industry are a fault here, guides, shops, and manufacturers. In these time of immediate gratifications we’ve looked to quick fixes. Rather than take the extra time to teach new and experienced flyfishers the wide variety of nuances this sport has to offer we focus on meeting, often times, unrealistic expectations and defer to using techniques and aids that can limit one learning.

As a result I feel that the strike indicator has led to a decline in the popularity of dry fly fishing. These days it's very common to find a frustrated angler trying to fish a hatch with a dry fly, when it's so much easier to use a nymph and strike indicator rig. Now if you like to fish dries this isn't all bad, since often times between the two schools of fishing, nymphs and dries, anglers take up different water.

Don't get me wrong. I think that the use of the strike indicator in certain situations is critical to ones success, especially if you are just learning, but we tend as an industry to defer to this tool to easily. There are other techniques that can be of equal success that are rarely taught, especially to new anglers. One of these is fishing soft hackles. These flies and the simple techniques that they require to fish them effectively are rarely taught. Another is streamers. Both of these very effective techniques aren't taught to most fly fishers until they have been at it for a while. I'm constantly amazed by the number of customers in our shop who have not tried either technique.

For the past twenty years of working in this industry I have seen a steady decline in anglers casting skills, a skill that defines the sport. Where once casting was paramount to ones success, and it still is to some degree, it isn't as critical as it use to be. As a result, flyfishers as a whole are not as well rounded nor versed in the wide variety of flyfishing techniques as they use to be nor do I see the industry professionals teaching these techniques as they once did. Like much in life we seem defer to quick fixes that are at our disposal versus investing in something that will benefit us for the long haul.

Fly fishing offers a wide variety of techniques. That’s what makes it such a great sport and pastime. I encourage you to challenge your self and learn them all or as many as you can within reason. Time vested to increase your skills will only improve your success, understanding and enjoyment when fishing with a fly.